Today I’m musing about the Delphic Maxims.
I discovered them a number of years ago, when I was researching the connection between the Delphic Oracle omphalos and bees.
Myth tells us that Zeus declared Delphi to be the center of Earth – it’s navel. And that by 800 BCE it had been dedicated as a major site of worship for Apollo. We tend to know Delphi as the place where the Oracle was consulted. That’s certainly always been the most interesting part to me. But it was an interesting sidetrack for me to learn that inscribed on the front columns of the temple are 147 maxims said to be given by Apollo.
The maxims are short, I think none more than 5 or 6 words, and offer guidance for conduct – a compendium of ethical and moral behavior.
I’m fascinated by things like this – what societies consider important and how they view the world. I’ve always been interested in proverbs and adages – particularly aphorisms that are so culturally specific that they make no sense to the culture I live in. Such as the German “Get the cow off the ice.”
But the Delphic Maxims are much more straightforward. Still, some of them caught my eye, and made me think about my position and relationship with them. I’m tempted to write about my thoughts on all 147 of them, but for now I’ll confine myself to four. Four in honor of the fact that today’s letter D is fourth in the alphabet. Symmetry is always nice isn’t it?
- Know what you have learned.
I’m not entirely sure but I suspect this means one should really embrace and utilize what one has learned – as opposed to the cram-for-a-test-and-then-it’s-gone phenomenon. But I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately in terms of owning my knowledge. I’ve had a tendency to dismiss what I know as things everyone knows, and yet in truth I have mastery of some things others don’t. I’ve been exploring both how we come to dismiss our own knowledge, and what shifts when we finally simply accept we all have different ranges.
- Honor the hearth (or Hestia)
This is an ongoing dance for me that’s really shown up in interesting ways this summer. I live in an oddly eccentric very old house that is coming to need a lot more loving attention and financial investment than we’re able to give it. As I’ve struggled with this and all the challenges of things that have needed repair or replacement over the past two weeks (including a new water heater and gutter repair), I saw how quickly I slipped into disharmony with this house, feeling like I simply wanted to be rid of it. But the truth is, I love this house and when I allow myself to be a place of gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderfulness this house has and does provide, things shift enormously.
It’s interesting that I feel an affinity with Hestia. She was thought to reside in the center of all homes providing the flames which gave light and warmth and allowed food to be cooked, thereby providing sustenance. She was honored as a sustainer of life, and what turned a house into a home. But there was very much a solitary, contained aspect about Hestia – she spoke little, stayed home, and avoided all the drama of the rest of the Olympians. Like Hestia, my home is very much my sanctuary.
The source of Hestia’s sacred fire was believed to be the molten core at the center of the Earth, which was connected by an umbilical cord to the omphalos in Delphi.
- Control the eye
This one makes me laugh. I understand the edict, but I’m willing to give it my own spin. First I love the term “keep your eyes peeled.” I’m willing to control my eyes so they keep scanning for all sorts of hidden treasure. I also believe that the eyes not only take in light (the way we see things), but they also give off light (and in doing so transfer energy to the thing being seen). I’m willing to control my eyes to send out beams of love to everything. Think that’s what Apollo had in mind?
- Keep deeply the top secret
The other day I wrote about lunaria aka honesty – and how I’ve been thinking a lot about transparency. It’s clearly the time of uncovering secrets in our world, and the more we can do that, the better off we are I believe. I don’t think I have a top secret to keep deeply. I do, however, have a secret decoder badge – one of my all time favorite presents from my husband. And I certainly do love little secret hiding places, even if I don’t have top secrets to hide in there.
Your turn. Have a favorite maxim? A favorite Olympian? Have a top secret or a controlled eye? What “D” thing is inspiring you today? Do tell – you know I love to hear.
Hi Deborah – D is for Deborah … the Random Muser and Dreamer … Dreamer of Depths of understanding … Denise Lewis was a Heptathlete winning Gold in Sydney 2000.
But your Delphic Maxims sent me off looking into Greek Olympic history …
Heptathletes – just the word delights me. But I’m truly in awe of those who can claim it – to be able to be so physically gifted and train in so many disciplines just takes my breath away. And here’s a tip of the hat to all those competing in this year’s Olympics – I’d love to see gold medals for all.
I’m delighted you’re heading off to research Olympic history – I can’t wait to see what fabulous things you share.
I’m thinking that the german ” Get the cow off the ice” admonition may have a lot in common with ” Get the truck off the ice” commonly used by ice fisherman in spring time…..
LOL – perhaps you’re right. Here I was thinking it was an admonition against ice cream. 🙂